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Jeremy O’Keefe: Writer/Director of SOMEWHERE SLOW

February 19, 2013

JeremyOKeefe1Q: Tell us a little about the origins of SOMEWHERE SLOW, from concept to financing.

Like many stories, Somewhere Slow is inspired by actual events, specifically a relationship that I was trying to find a place for in my own personal history.  Like Anna, I too, met a stranger who’s ferocity for the unknown and adventure prompted me to step out of my own self-imposed box.  I wrote the first draft in a week and decided to do a staged reading of the script. This is where I found Jessalyn Gilsig.  She read Anna in the reading, and from the moment the reading finished I knew I would not be able to tell this story with anyone but her as Anna. This woman, this actress is far beyond the real deal. Diving into a character who’s blemished, awkward and full of fear requires such bravery, such lack of vanity, such commitment to story, and Jessalyn had me from the moment she opened her mouth.

She partnered with me, and we brought on Michael Anderson & Christopher Sepulveda to produce the movie with us, as I developed the script into the story we would eventually shoot.  Finding the right young actor to play Travis was crucial.  We held auditions, saw over 100 young men both in California and Europe (via Skype!).  There were so many talented young men, but when Graham Patrick Martin walked in the room and read for us, we knew we had found our Travis, and to be honest, Graham brought elements to Travis that I could not have even anticipated, and shaped our perception of who Travis could be.  When David Costabile came on board as Robert, Anna’s husband it was unbelievable. While the role of Robert bookends the story, we knew we needed an actor whose presence could be felt throughout Anna’s journey away from him.  David and I had many a conversation about who Robert is and how a role that could’ve easily been played as dopey and cold needed to be a filled with an undeniable love for Anna that she just couldn’t feel, or perhaps wasn’t right for her.  Besides, David had just finished working with two pretty important Stevens – Spielberg (Lincoln) and Soderbergh (Side Effects) – I may have been interested a bit in what I could learn from him!  The gift of having Wallace Langham, Lindsay Crouse and Robert Forster fill out the remaining supporting cast is something that I still have to pinch myself about.  These actors are legends.    Financing fell into place with the help of the great Bliss Katopothis, of Willow Creek, securing much of our private equity out of the Bay Area and with the dedication of a multitude of generous talents, we were able to move into production.

2Q: Cinequest is proud to host the World Premiere of SOMEWHERE SLOW. Explain to the audience how you feel about bringing this film before audiences for the first time, and what do you think their reaction will be to your film?

We could not be more pleased to hold our world premiere at Cinequest.  It’s a festival I’ve wanted to be a part of for nearly a decade, so it’s actually a dream come true.   The festival is about looking forward, about the future of  film and technology, so to be grouped in with that idea of the future just feels amazing.

Movies aren’t movies until they interact with an audience, thus making our premiere and subsequent screenings the completion of our storytelling.   I’m so eager to watch & listen to an audience experience our story.  We know what it means to us, but to open it up and share it with absolute strangers who aren’t just proud of us for making a movie is out-of-this-world and the very purpose we set out for in the first place.  During post-production, we had a few test screenings, and from the moment Jessalyn appears on screen she grabs the audience and they’re right with her until the credits roll.   My goal in telling this story was to create characters and experiences that are universal to whomever watches — universally funny, universally romantic & universally heartbreaking. Our actors, our designers, our crew, our producers, our investors  all put a piece of themselves into this film that is undeniably heartfelt and truthful — and I know an audience will connect with that.

3Q: What was your best and/or worst experience while making SOMEWHERE SLOW?

SWS_RAIN_FESTThere are a few moments that really stand out from our time shooting the film.  The first has to be our rain day.  The part in the beginning of our story where it really takes a turn required a thunderstorm.  We were shooting in sunny SoCal at the end of the summer.  There wasn’t ever going to be even a cloud in the sky.   When making an independent film, as producers, we always knew we would have to concede some elements of the story in favor of others, but my producer Michael (Anderson) and my line producer, Dawn Wiercinski knew how important this rain sequence was to me and to Anna’s journey.  They did the impossible, and I still remember the phone call when Dawn called me and said, “We got you your rain!”  On our infamous rain shoot day, when the rain fell, tears popped into my eyes.  It was magical.  Movie-magical.  Another favorite challenge of mine was shooting the climax of the story between Anna and Travis on a sandbar in the middle of Mt. Hope Bay off the coast of Rhode Island.  The characters go out to this “island” for the afternoon, and as they are on the island, the tide changes and the island begins to disappear, leaving them running for their boat before it gets swept away.  My cinematographer, Justin Talley, and I wanted to capture both the intimacy and the vitality of the moment, so we chose to actually race against nature to shoot one of the most important scenes, while chasing the sunset and the island actually disappearing!  I’ll never forget the image of our 15 person crew circling in a straight line behind Justin, as we spun around Anna & Travis to capture the 360 degree shot.  We were all like the second hand of a ticking clock in a literal race against time.   It was incredible.  It was exhilarating and we got it!

4Q: Festival audiences often have to make hard decisions about what to see, and the catalog descriptions sometimes run together. In your own words, why should people see your film?

That’s a great question.  People should see Somewhere Slow because it’s an adventure in breaking free of our own perceptions of how we think we’re meant to live our lives.  It’s about risk, it’s about reward and it’s about the pursuit of a better life– a life that is more full,  more vital, more vivid.  I couldn’t be happier with the nuance and bravery of Jessalyn Gilsig, Graham Patrick Martin, David Costabile, Wallace Langham, Lauren Schneider, Lindsay Crouse, Robert Forster and everyone else in my cast & design team.   And it’s funny and sexy and romantic and provocative and will make you feel something.   Those are good reasons, right?

5Q: The current market for independent films is fractured, to put it lightly, and existing distribution models grow more ineffective with each passing moment. What are your hopes or plans for distribution?

We’re really excited to launch our festival experience at Cinequest and continue on to the Omaha Film Festival, Vail Film Festival and others.   For all of us, getting to share the film with an audience is our number 1 priority.  I want Somewhere Slow to be released theatrically so as many people will have the opportunity to experience the film on the big screen, with others around them.  Yes, the distribution model is expanding, and outlets like VOD, Netflix, etc are offering incredible opportunities for filmmakers to reach an audience that is craving strong and unique storytelling but call me old-fashioned, there is something so special about the collective viewing experience of watching a movie amongst strangers in a dark theatre, that will always, always, always be a necessary part of how we as filmmakers mirror our audiences’ own lives, hope, fears and dreams.

Buy tickets to see SOMEWHERE SLOW at Cinequest!

Watch the Trailer!

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